Ludlow Fringe Festival 2019
It’s always a treat for Ludlow Fringe to have a returning visit from a real class act. Mark Thomas delivered his usual brand of spiky, provocative and thought-provoking humour, riding as it does on the eccentric ideas of local residents with suggestions for their own Manifesto.
Everyone (especially on Social Media) has an opinion and with the British political climate seemingly in meltdown these days (and the populace catastrophically disengaged with the established political system), opinions are are coming thick and fast. A firm conviction that whoever is in charge isn’t doing their job properly and we need to tell them what to do, allows the Mark Thomas’s Manifesto show to generate a kind of community soapbox to get these opinions the airing their protagonists think they deserve.
The show brings a public arena to some left-field ideas and with its instant Yay or Nay – or just plain silence – voting, some more loopy ideas can be firmly put back into their boxes. Other ideas, of course, weather the audience’s (and Thomas’s own) judgement and are ultimately firm favourites which form the final selection for that Manifesto.
As far as Thomas is concerned, these most popular suggestions become the litmus paper of the mood of that town. For example a suggestion to bring back the stocks (a set of which Ludlow already has!) for politicians proved one of the winners and left Mark Thomas bemused. He was equally perplexed (having never encountered it) at one suggestion from Ludlow which required people who hang dog-poo bags in trees to do community service. This idea seemed to bewilder him but surely this happens in parks in London? Perhaps there are more dogs up here than there are in London.
Thomas introduced the show with a discourse on being old (at 56?) and in need of hearing aids and a rectal endoscopy – a subject he possibly dwelt on a little longer than was polite but it got the mostly over-50 audience on his side from the off. Thomas is clearly piercingly intelligent and his huge knowledge of a wide range of subjects thrown up by the audience’s suggestions gave him an opportunity to bring a much wider remit to what could otherwise be a less sparkling evening of simple tub thumping. His discourses on everything from Slavery reparations to his own (predictable and popular) views on Boris Johnson were a definite highlight of the evening.
The Manifesto format has been running now for ten years and has yielded a rich vein of humour for him to draw on. Perhaps he could have engaged a little more with the actual suggestions offered to him and spent less time reading from the already-published volume of Manifesto pledges from elsewhere in the country. It matters little as for many in the audience, this was a hilarious and much needed evening of humour and, more importantly, a chance to let off of steam at the existing democratic process which is in itself, perhaps, failing them.
Highlights from the shortlist for the Ludlow Manifesto are:
• Give people receipts for what it would cost if they had to pay for their NHS treatment
• Nationalise the railways/utilities
• All revenue from the National Trust should be used for slavery reparation
• Re-instate the Stocks in Parliament Square for all politicians involved in Brexit. Keep them all there for 48 hours and hand out rotten fruit and eggs to the public.
• Boris Johnson to be given a new job, driving one of those funny little cars in a circus with his fellow clowns.
• If you fall asleep in the House of Lords, others must be allowed to draw on your face.
• Anyone who denies that Climate Change is real should be moved to one of the worst-affected areas and, when they complain of the conditions, be told by a clown that they are “falling for a conspiracy”.
• Anyone who deliberately misgenders (or misnames a transgender person) should be given an arbitrary name and gender to see how they like it.
• People asking to “Get” a coffee should be sent to the back of the queue and kept waiting until they ask for a drink properly.
• Anyone who hangs a dog-poo bag from a tree will have to spend a day litter picking and sweeping the streets.